Published on 25 April 2019

Report that medication prescribed to reduce risk of heart-related conditions in people with diabetes may not be effective for many.

Around half of people taking statins may not be responding to the medication used to lower cholesterol levels.

Most people over the age of 75 are prescribed statins in the UK, as health guidelines recommend that people with a 10% or higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years should be offered the treatment.

However, a recently published study in the journal Heart found that: “Optimal lowering of low density lipoprotein (LDL) [also known as "bad" cholesterol] is not achieved within 2 years in over half of patients in the general population initiated on statin therapy, and these patients will experience significantly increased risk of future cardiovascular disease.”

Researchers from the University of Nottingham who carried out the study reported that half of patients that did not have an adequate response to statins, eg their cholesterol levels had reduced by less than 40%, had a slightly higher risk of future cardiovascular problems than those who had a good response to the treatment.

An NHS Behind the Headlines report on the study concluded: “This valuable study made use of a large number of general practice records to look at the cholesterol response of hundreds of people taking statins.

“Importantly, the results of this study do not apply to people who have been prescribed statins after a previous heart attack or stroke: they will nearly always be prescribed higher dose statins.

“The study highlights the need for doctors to review the cholesterol response in people who take statins.

“It's important that people do not stop taking statins without speaking to their doctor, as this could increase their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.”

NICE guidelines recommend that people who have been started on statins should have their cholesterol rechecked after 3 months.

If during that time they have not reduced their low density lipoprotein levels by 40% the guidelines recommend checking that the person is taking the medication as prescribed; promoting general healthy living advice through diet and exercise; consider increasing the dose.

Last year we reported that unless the person prescribed statins has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes there may be no benefit to taking the treatment.

Read the report in Heart
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